15 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About 'Mulan' (1998)

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Vote up the coolest things you learned about 'Mulan'!

Disney released some of its best animated films between 1989 and '99, a time best known as the Disney Renaissance. One of the studio's most successful films from this period is Mulan, a movie based on the Ballad of Mulan by Guo Maoqian. The film is very different from the typical film produced by Disney up to that point, and that's part of what makes it such a compelling story. Mulan isn't a Disney Princess waiting for a kiss from her prince - she's a cross-dressing warrior who defeated the Huns, saved China, and brought honor to her family.

A lot of work went into the making of Mulan so that it would be done respectfully in terms of the source material while still managing to entertain millions of people worldwide. Doing that required countless hours of work from researchers, artists, animators, actors, and all the rest. Ming-Na Wen's work as the titular hero's voice seamlessly integrated with Lea Salonga's singing. Add to that all of the small and interesting details the movie's creators threw into the mix, and Disney created a major success. 

The items listed below are some of the more interesting things you (probably) didn't know about the making of Mulan. Take a look at them down below, and don't forget to upvote whichever items you find fascinating or you didn't already know!


  • 1
    47 VOTES

    Jackie Chan Voiced Li Shang And Sang His Songs In Mandarin And Cantonese

    China has become one of the world's biggest movie markets, and in 1998, when Mulan was first released, this was a growing trend. Mulan is an important story in Chinese folklore, so the people in that part of the world were interested in the movie. To ensure the film would be enjoyed worldwide, and especially by the Chinese, Mulan was dubbed in several languages. Jackie Chan was hired to provide the vocals for Li Shang, but unlike his American counterpart, he recorded the dialogue and vocals for "I'll Make a Man Out of You."

    Chan performed all of his dialogue and singing in Mandarin, Taiwanese Chinese, and Cantonese. The martial arts expert didn't simply stroll into a recording booth and read his lines for a quick paycheck - he really got into it. His involvement in the recording for Asian markets was highly publicized at the time, and he even recorded a live-action music video interspersed with animated sequences. You can check it out here.

    47 votes
  • 2
    34 VOTES

    The Style Of Cannon Mulan Used Against The Hun Army Actually Existed IRL

    When "Ping" takes the final cannon and runs toward the Mongol horde, it's for a good reason. Mulan realizes at that moment that she can take out the entire invading force with a well-placed cannon shot. The subsequent avalanche ends up taking out a ton of enemy soldiers, and while it doesn't result in the demise of the movie's big bad, it does deliver a devastating blow. The cannon she uses in the scene may look like something Disney animators thought up for the film, but it's historically accurate. 

    The type of cannon seen in the movie is called a huolongchushui, or "fire dragon issuing from water" in Chinese. The huolongchushui was the first ballistic cruise missile used in post-classical China during the Ming dynasty, and they struck fear in the hearts of China's enemies. China mastered gunpowder long before anyone else, and these weapons delivered an explosive charge to a target further than any arrow could fly. More than that, each huolongchushui carried a magazine of three rocket-driven arrows, technically making it a multi-stage rocket.

    34 votes
  • 3
    34 VOTES

    The Backgrounds In The Film Were Designed With "Poetic Simplicity"

    The Backgrounds In The Film Were Designed With "Poetic Simplicity"
    Photo: Mulan / Buena Vista Pictures

    The backgrounds used throughout much of Mulan were created by production designer Hans Bacher, art director Rix Sluiter, and head of backgrounds Robert Walker. Because there isn't a general consensus on the time period in which the legend of Hua Mulan takes place, it was decided to focus the art on the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) dynasties. The team wanted to make the background art look like traditional Chinese paintings using watercolors.

    The backgrounds were designed to focus on the characters. The team traveled all over China to get a good idea of how to properly represent the places and the people featured in the movie. The film's producer, Pam Coats, summed up the artistic style of the background as "poetic simplicity" due to the colorful boldness and lack of detail. Other Disney films in the 1990s featured much more detail in the backgrounds, but Mulan was purposefully done differently to better characterize the majesty of China and its beautiful landscapes.

    34 votes
  • 4
    82 VOTES

    Animators Gave Mulan And Shan Yu Regionally Accurate Horses

    One thing that was clear to anyone watching Mulan was that the Mongols, and Shan Yu, in particular, all rode different horses than those ridden by the Chinese army. Mulan's horse, Khan, appears distinctly different in both its coloration and shape. The reason for this isn't due to the animators' desire to simply differentiate the two; it's because the film is accurate in every detail possible. To put it simply, the Mongols raised and rode different horses than the Chinese people did during the time period depicted in the movie.

    Shan Yu's horse breed is called a Mongol horse, and it's been pretty much the same in look and temperament since the time of Genghis Khan. They were instrumental in expanding the Mongol Empire during the 13th century, and Shan Yu's horse looks just like they do today. Mulan's horse is a now-extinct Ferghana horse, also known as the "heavenly horse" in China. In comparison, the Ferghana horse is larger and has more slender features, while Mongol horses have thicker fur, are stockier, and are smaller. Each horse is drawn accurately in the film, and their inclusion is both culturally and historically accurate.

    82 votes
  • 5
    28 VOTES

    Mulan's Family Shrine Houses Tons Of Easter Eggs

    While watching Mulan, you probably noticed that the Fa family shrine features numerous headstoned and obelisks with Chinese text written on them. If you're like most people who don't understand the language, you probably assumed they listed various names, and you're not exactly wrong. Disney artists like to leave little Easter eggs in the movies they work on, and while the text lists names, they have nothing to do with the Fa family.

    Instead, each line of Chinese calligraphy that is illuminated when Mulan calls out to her ancestors to "rise and shine" is an homage to the film's creators. The text is a list of names of many of the people who worked on the film. The animators' names feature prominently in the scene, so it's as if Mulan is interacting with the credits. It's not something anyone would know unless they were able to read Chinese calligraphy, so it's safe to say that plenty of people could read it; they just weren't the majority in the movie's Western markets.

    28 votes
  • 6
    40 VOTES

    Cri-Kee Almost Didn’t Make It Into The Movie

    Cri-Kee was created by Joe Grant, who worked on the story art for Mulan. The character causes a lot of problems for Mulan when she meets with the matchmaker, and Cri-Kee takes part in her adventures from that part forward. According to Barry Temple, one of the animators in the movie, Cri-Kee almost didn't make it into the film: "The directors didn't want him in the movie; the story department didn't want him in the movie. The only people who truly wanted him in the movie were Michael Eisner and Joe Grant."

    Temple further stated that he wanted the character in the film because he was assigned to Cri-Kee. He recalled, "I would sit in meetings, and they'd say, 'Well, where's the cricket during all this?' Somebody else would say, 'Oh, to hell with the cricket.' They felt Cri-Kee was a character who wasn't necessary to tell the story, which is true." Temple was one of the few people pushing to have Cri-Kee included in the film, but it was Grant who constantly slid sketches of the character under the director's door.

    40 votes